Why meditation may well be the fountain of youth
Updated: Jul 7
Decades of increasingly growing research confirms the immediate results of regular meditation practice.
We know meditation reduced stress and anxiety levels, lowers blood pressure, develops a higher functioning immune system, improves digestion and enhances happiness and these are just a few of the clinically proven benefits. Studies have shown many of these effects are common in as little as eight weeks.
While these immediate bonuses are reason enough for us to practice Meditation regularly, the positive impact appears to be even more far-reaching, potentially adding years to our lives and improving cognitive function well into old age.
Meditation appears to affect the longevity of the physical body in a handful of different ways, starting at the cellular level.
Our cells contain chromosomes or sequences of DNA. Telomeres are “protective protein caps” at the end of our DNA strands that allow for continued cell replication.
The longer the telomere, the more times a cell can divide and refresh. Each time a cell replicates, its telomere length, and therefore its lifespan, gets shorter in a natural ageing process.
Telomerase is an enzyme in the body that prevents telomere shortening and can even add telomeric DNA back to the telomere and help our body’s cells live for a longer period of time. Scientists have isolated length of telomeres and telomerase as indicators of cellular ageing. So, the longer your telomeres are the slower the ageing process.
In 2013, Elizabeth Hoge, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, investigated this idea by leading a study comparing telomere length of experienced Meditation practitioners with that of non-meditators. Results revealed that those with more years of meditation practice had longer telomere length overall and that women meditators had significantly longer telomeres as compared to women non-meditators.
These findings further support Meditation’s positive effect on healthy cellular ageing and provide fodder for future longitudinal research that could track the change in telomere length over time.
Another way meditation may help slow ageing is through its effects on the brain.
Typically our brains’ grey matter volume, which is made of brain cells and dendrites that give and receive signals to help us think and function, decreases beginning at age 30 at different rates and locations, depending on the individual.
Concurrently, we also begin to lose white matter volume in our brains, which is comprised of axons that carry the actual electric signals between dendrites in the brain.
A small but growing body of research indicates we may alter our individual brain structure through meditation and potentially slow structural degeneration.
Meditation may capitalize on the brain’s undying hunger to be preserved and thrive.